16/04/2024

Tayla Harris. Picture: melbournefc.com.au

The 2022 AFLW season proved to be outstanding for Tayla Harris, whose career was seemingly on the ropes after a difficult 2021.

Tayla Harris is one of the biggest names in the AFLW, but towards the end of 2021, her legacy was under fire. This Saturday, she’s playing in a grand final.

After a fantastic first four seasons with Brisbane and Carlton, including three All-Australian selections and three club leading goalkicker awards, Harris was on top of the world.

Off field drama and commitments then led Harris to have a dramatic drop in form and confidence in the navy blue.

In Harris’ last year for the Blues, she only managed to score four goals, her lowest since the AFLW’s inaugural season with the Lions.

She also saw decreases in her average disposals (10.4 to 6.0) and marks (3.7 to 2.0) from 2020 to 2021, which saw Harris come under fire due to her stature in the game.

Harris’ drop in form was left to a variety of factors, including the commitments that she had coming into the 2021 season.

An Amazon Prime documentary titled “Kick like Tayla” saw Harris thrust even more into the limelight, with many believing she didn’t deserve it.

This project also caused friction between her and her teammates, as she allegedly left training early to post on Instagram promoting the documentary.

These issues, along with a desire for an increase in her pay, caused Harris to look elsewhere for 2022.

This was how she ended up back with the Demons, a team in which she played exhibition matches before as a teenager.

The Resurgence

Harris has unbelievably brought herself into career best form since the move to the Demons, assisting her team on their road to the grand final and collecting her fourth All-Australian honour.

So what happened?

Harris stated, “I think this season physically, emotionally and mentally I’ve matured in a big way through various different reasons.”

MORE AUSSIE RULES NEWS

25 Years of Showdowns: Sam Jacobs on winning his third showdown medal in record Crows victory

AFL Team of the Week: Round 3

SANFLW: Sturt’s brand of footy sees them on top of the table

For Harris, her ability to turn games off her own boot returned with confidence in herself.

“I’ve been able to contribute for this team as much as I could,” said Harris when asked about her 2022 campaign.

“Impacting for me isn’t what most think.

“This weekend (the preliminary final against Brisbane), I didn’t have my hands on the footy as much as whoever looks at the stats and is obsessed with them would like to see but the reality is I competed where I needed to.

“I just did what I had to do for the team and I could not care less what the stats say.

“That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do is just compete.”

This year it has been shown that Harris plays her best footy when she focuses on the team, rather than her own statistics.

Despite her non-statistical view of her game, Harris has had a significant jump in her stats compared to the rest of her career.

She has averaged more disposals and marks than any other season, while kicking over double her season high in goals in just three games more.

Playing alongside superstar Daisy Pearce, the leader in score assists for the AFLW, has led Harris to capitalise on greater opportunities inside 50.

Harris used Pearce and the rest of the elite Demons’ midfield to her advantage, putting through 18 goals to date in the AFLW this season, more than her efforts in her first three years combined at 16.

Gun midfielder Karen Paxman leads her side in inside 50’s per game, with an average of 3.5. The majority of these entries saw Harris streaming onto them.

Harris’ marking ability remains one of the strongest facets of her game, allowing her to pull down marks against shorter defenders with great efficiency.

She leads the league in contested marks with 24 on the season, nine more than her closest competition in North Melbourne’s Emma King. This was a massive increase from only eight in 2021.

Harris also leads the Demons in marks through the season, taking 38 at an average of 3.5 a game, an improvement from her 16 in the previous season.

Many would be more than happy to be at the top of their game with the way her season has gone, but Harris remains hungry for more.

“I feel like I have not reached any potential at all,” she said.

“Every week in my review I’ve got my areas to improve… I’ve got a long way to go and I can’t wait to keep working on it.”

Discussing her move to the Demons, Harris said, “I think I needed this.”

“It was pretty frustrating the way it all unfolded but it was the best thing for me in hindsight to end up here.”

Harris will be playing in her third grand final with a third team, while every one has been against the Crows.

She believes that the Demons have what it takes and personally will do everything she can, stating “On the field, if there is a moment I need to put my body on the line… I will”

“If we can win this game and Daisy can lift up the cup then I’ll do it.”

Harris and the Demons take on the Crows at the Adelaide Oval on Saturday for the AFLW premiership

Subscribe to our newsletter!

About Author

Leave a Reply